Powering Ahead

Some of the most prominent initiatives in New York energy policy emerge from within the executive branch: the Reforming the Energy Vision plan, for example, is Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature initiative to fundamentally restructure the way energy is produced and distributed in New York State. And a recent 10-year, $1.5 billion proposal to invest in large-scale renewable power generation such as wind farms and vast solar arrays comes down from the Energy Research and Development Authority—a state authority under the governor’s control.

But state lawmakers are pushing some energy reform legislation of their own as the session winds down. Both houses have already passed bills that would require the Public Service Commission to create a central repository for all competitive requests for proposal on electricity generation projects in the state—a transparency measure to ensure that all potential bidders are aware when opportunities become available.

“We had heard from the industry that when they were trying to bid, when the bids were posted, they weren’t posted as publicly as they needed to be,” said Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, who chairs the Committee on Energy. “So not everybody was finding out about projects that were being put forth by the PSC and so forth.”

“Everybody seemed on board with that,” Paulin continued. “Because all it does is encourage more bidders, which is good for the whole system.”

Other bills have yet to clear the Legislature but stand a fair chance, according to Paulin.

They are:

  • A community solar pilot program, which would allow power utilities to develop solar arrays on their own land. Customers would sign up to access the power on a first-come, first-served basis and pay a fixed rate for a certain number of years. Some subscriptions to the program would be reserved for low- and moderate-income ratepayers, and all participants would be exempt from system benefit and other surcharges on their electric bills. This bill has no equivalent in the Senate.
  • A commercial on-bill repayment program for energy efficiency retrofits. This would allow businesses that perform such retrofits to spread out payments for the job on their utility bills over time, much as residential ratepayers do. An identical version of this bill is sponsored by state Sen. Joseph Griffo, who chairs the Committee on Energy and Telecommunications in the Senate.
  • Solar power purchasing agreements for school districts. This measure would allow school districts and other public entities to enter into long-term (35-year) purchasing agreements with power providers. An identical version of this bill is sponsored by Griffo in the Senate. 

Griffo and Paulin have also sponsored a bill that would require local planning regulations to accommodate for the use of renewable energy sources in new buildings. Another piece of legislation from Griffo would establish a personal income tax credit for the installation of residential energy storage systems, a measure that has a matching sponsor in Assemblyman Steve Englebright, chair of the Environmental Conservation Committee in the Assembly.

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